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Why did the war start?
On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. People in Britain opened their newspapers the next morning and found out war had begun.

It became known as The Great War because it affected people all over the world and was the biggest war anyone had ever known. The war was fought between two powers.
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  • The Triple Alliance - made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy
  • The Triple Entente - made up of Great Britain, France and Russia
Long before the war began, the countries in these groups had made arrangements to work together and help one another if there was a war. So when war did break out in 1914, parts of Europe were already divided into two sides.
Each of the countries involved got their troops ready to fight. Troops were groups that fought together and included both the army (people who fight on land) and the navy (people who fight on the seas). Although part of the Triple Alliance, Italy declared neutrality at the outbreak of war. Italy then entered the war on the side of the Triple Entente in 1915.
The war saw lots of battles take place in different countries, especially France and Belgium. Later, many other countries also become involved, some on the side of the Triple Alliance and others of the side on the Triple Entente.

Firstly, there was the role of empire. Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia all had empires. This meant that they ruled many countries (colonies) all over the world. Each of these countries wanted to keep their empire strong and was afraid of other countries taking over new territories. They saw this as a threat to their own empires. So when Germany and Austria-Hungary took control of smaller countries like Bosnia and Morocco, it looked to the rest of the world like they were being aggressive.

Secondly, many countries had made alliances with one other. They agreed to protect one another. This meant that if one country was attacked, the others would get involved to defend that country.

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was shot (assassinated) while he was visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia. A Serbian person, who thought that Serbia should control Bosnia instead of Austria, killed him. Because its leader had been shot, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. As a result:
  • Russia got involved because Russia had an alliance with Serbia
  • Germany then declared war on Russia because Germany had an alliance with Austria-Hungary
  • Britain declared war on Germany because of its invasion of neutral Belgium - Britain had agreements to protect both Belgium and France
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  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary
    World War One ration cards

A total of 65 million troops from around the world fought in the war. This included the British army, which was made up of around 4 million men from England, 558,000 men from Scotland, 273,000 men from Wales and 134,000 men from Ireland. Just under 1 million British troops died.
Later in the war, Germany announced that it would attack any ship that sailed towards Britain.
At this point, the United States of America decided Germany was breaking international treaties and Europe needed help. The US President declared war on Germany in April 1917. He thought that he could help bring peace to Europe.
As for Folkestone, when the war broke out it was the summer season and Folkestone was crowded with visitors enjoying a hot summer, listening to the bands and bathing in the sea.

At first, like everywhere else in the land there was a mood of confidence that it would all be over in three months.

Soon various changes were noticed. Men began to appear in uniform on the Leas, especially officers; there was a great exodus of German and Austrian waiters from the hotels; the visitors began to disappear and with hotels emptied the season came to a swift end.

Folkestone was considered too close to the continent and in danger of bombardment from enemy cruisers.

The seriousness of the conflict became obvious to the town when, during the third week of August boat loads of Belgian refugees, exhausted, destitute and hungry came into the harbour.

Day after day and week after week they arrived and meals, clothes and beds had to be found. During the first months of the war 64,500 refugees came to the town and amazingly somehow they were either moved on to other towns or catered for locally but at one period Folkestone had as many as 15,000 to 20,000 refugees in the town.

The population of the town pre war was approximately 30,000 and before the war it was much smaller.
Here we are looking at the role that women played during WWI, but are you sure you know how the war actually started?

If not, read more here!